Flu Vaccines and Kids
A CDC expert explains why your child needs the flu vaccine, how many doses to get, and when.
Q: Is H1N1 (swine flu) still a concern?
A: Yes. We need to consider whether children get an adequate number of doses of the H1N1 pandemic strain to be protected from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus. It was in last year's vaccine and is also in this year's vaccine.
Your child will need two doses of this year's flu vaccine if she did not get at least one dose of the 2010-2011 flu vaccine, even if he or she received two doses in an earlier season.
Q: Which children are eligible for the nasal spray flu vaccine?
A: The nasal spray is an option for healthy children over age 2 who don't have asthma, chronic medical conditions, or other medical problems that might place them at increased risk for influenza complications.
Sometimes doctors' practices run out of it, or they're not able to stock it every year. But you can ask for it.
Q: How can a parent prepare a child for the flu shot, particularly if the child is afraid of injections?
A: For children who are fearful of an injection, the nasal spray flu vaccine is an option. Otherwise, it's just like any other vaccination, and it may help if the pediatrician has good distraction techniques.
Q: What are the typical reactions to the flu shot?
A: Generally, the most common side effects from the flu shot are local symptoms around the site where the shot was given -- things like soreness, redness, or swelling. Children who get the nasal spray vaccine may have a runny nose, congestion, or cough.
After either vaccine, some children may have other symptoms, such as fever or aches. These effects are usually mild and last only one to two days.
Severe reactions are rare, but parents could look for a high fever, behavior changes, or signs of a severe allergic reaction, like trouble breathing or hives.
Q: Will the flu shot be painful for my child?
A: There are a lot of things that can impact what your experience is, so it's hard to say. For example, there can be a lot of variability depending on the technique of the person giving the shot.
Q: When is it too late in the season to get a flu vaccine?
A: The season generally begins in September or October and can run as late as May, but some seasons behave differently. Throughout the season, we recommend that people get their vaccines if they haven't already. You can never be sure, because flu is unpredictable. ... We recommend getting it as early as possible in the season, so you can establish your immune protection as early as possible.